With Old Man Winter’s reverse hibernation under way and the related metal detecting hindrances (i.e., frozen ground and frigid temps) asleep with him, I was able embark on a recent historical hunt on some fields in Salem County, NJ. I love this area because it represents one of the last vestiges of rural New Jersey at its finest. Indeed, it’s one of those park-your-car-on-the-side-of-the-road type of places where you may not see a single soul the rest of the day.
My trip was more of an exploratory effort to gauge the fields’ hidden historical potential for repeat visits. While certainly not due to a lack of effort (read here: 6 hours of swinging a metal detector and related digging), it was clear that either not much historical traffic occurred here or that these fields have been scoured heavily in the past. Probably a little of both, I surmised.
Nonetheless, as the pictures below show, I was able to locate a few colonial- and post-colonial-era items of interest, such as lead musket balls, part of a pewter coat button, and horse-related buckles.
Without a doubt, however, the best find of the day was also the most historically coincidental of my metal detecting tenure. At about noon, with a loud “66” registering on my metal detector, I dug a gold wedding band. Seeing gold shining through the dirt is always a thrill, not so much in a monetary sense (for my intent in this hobby is never financial gain), but instead for marveling at how gold and silver (as opposed to most other metals) keep their luster despite being buried for so long. Swiping some dirt away, I could see that there were some hallmarks and an inscription on the inner part of the ring. After subsequent careful cleaning, I was able to confirm the hallmarks “14 B Kt.” and “MRL” (the former representing the gold weight and the latter the maker). However, the amazing feature of this wedding band is the inscription, which is laid out in a vintage, cursive font: “F.P.P. to P.E.P 3-20-15.” Quite coincidentally and even more thrilling, I found this item on 3-19-15, meaning it was brought back to light just one day shy of the 100-year-old wedding date inscribed on the ring!
I am now engaged in an effort to acquire marriage records for the immediate area to try and determine descendants of this loving couple. I will also locate property records for the immediate area. While I don’t have specific names on which to base a search, I do have initials, a date, and a likely target area. I hope one day to locate a family member and return the ring as a way of celebrating and honoring a marriage that occurred 100 years prior. Stay tuned!